This is part 2 of our 5-part December travelogue:
- Phuket, Thailand
- Bangkok, Thailand
- Chiang Mai, Thailand
- Siem Reap, Cambodia
- Ho Chi Minh City, Vietnam
After Phuket, Casey and I went to Bangkok for a week. We were only there Monday to Friday, and I had to work, so we didn’t get as much chance to explore the city as we would have liked.
Bangkok is huge, and somewhat difficult to get around in, so about the only two attractions we hit up were an awesome bike tour arranged by a friend we met there and walk through Paragon, one of the premier malls in the city.
The first thing I noticed was just how utterly sprawling Bangkok is. The plane was above Bangkok for a good 5–10 minutes before we actually touched down. I watched the city go by below and it just went on and on and on.
Transportation in Bangkok is interesting. This was a shuttle bus from the airport to a BTS (“Skytrain”) station. The skytrain is an elevated rail system of two lines going East-West and North-South. There’s also a distinct underground subway system. And then there’s a bewildering array of busses of different routes, colors, costs, and comforts, that locals advised us to avoid since they’re impossible for non-Thais to navigate.
Unlike the tropical paradise we stayed in at Phuket, here we were in a (much) cheaper hostel called ONEDAY with 6-bed shared rooms. The hostel was super clean and attached to a great coworking space.
Our first day we took a trip to Bangkok’s Chinatown. It was fun to see the mix of English, Thai, and Chinese characters. I thought it might be easier to get around and order food here since my Chinese is better than most Thais’ English, but as far as I could tell from overhearing conversations, most vendors in Chinatown were actually Thai people.
95% of Thai people are Buddhist and you see temples (“Wat”s) everywhere.
Casey and I met a friendly guy named Sam who had been living in Bangkok for a few years. We asked him for recommendations of activities and he said that he liked to escape the sometimes oppressive noise and bustle of the city and go biking. He had the coming Thursday off, so he volunteered to show us around then.
What a great day it was! We began by taking a cab to the river not far from where we were staying. Sam, of course, spoke to the cab driver in Thai, which was very impressive. Bangkok is a coastal city and characterized by the substantial Chao Phraya River running through it. One particular twist and doubling back of the river sections off an isolated, mostly undeveloped section of the city, which is what we biked through after taking a short “ferry” (read: dinghy) across the river.
Casey and Sam boarding our ferry. Not the grandest of vessels, but it was only $0.25/person! Here’s a shaky video I took of us crossing.
Sam and I with our rental bikes.
Part of the bike ride took us through a beautiful park. Casey really liked these purple flowers.
Lest we forget that Thailand is a tropical jungle…
Here we are biking through the little villages to see the different parks and places we were going. The roads were twisty and not well marked and all we had was a hand-drawn (poorly) map. We got a bit lost until we realized our phones still had GPS and data and Google Maps… I was shocked to discover that Google Maps somehow had faithfully reproduced all these tiny little paths.
A nice restaurant at the end of our bike ride, sort of carved out of the jungle on one side and overlooking the river on the other.
The other excursion we took was to Bangkok’s central Paragon Mall, which is located at the Siam stop on the BTS air train (the station at the intersection of the North-South and East-West lines). This station and mall were the sites of the two Bangkok bombings in Feb. 2015 (injuring three people), although you’d never know it from the bustle of people and beautiful buildings today. There was another larger bombing in August that killed 20 and injured 125 but we didn’t go there so I don’t know how it is now. This mall had the most amazing, delicious, extensive food court of any mall Casey or I had ever seen! That was about all we did here: walk around and sample food.
Giant fried squid thing
Super delicious vinegary meal
Fresh seafood (in the mall!) to pick out and eat right there
We got some prawns. I didn’t like them. :(
Even the McDonald’s had an interesting dish: a tasty Thai chicken rice porridge
I ordered this noodle dish at a restaurant. It was so spicy!
Casey ordered this Tom Kha Gai (coconut soup). We learned that this was generally a “safe” dish as far as spiciness goes…
And that’s all for now! Next up: Chiang Mai in the north.
Sun, Feb 28, 2016 | For updates follow me on twitter